Warm weather hit and then disappeared, and then hit again and disappeared… Oh well, maybe that's another reason it’s called spring because the weather springs back and forth so easily.
The warm weather days have wooed my family and me outdoors until long after dark. It has awakened all the forest critters too! For the first time in what feels like ages, I once again hear the birds, crickets, tree frogs in the morning. In the evenings, the bullfrogs' song begins and the moths once again come out to congregate under the porch lights.
This is the first time I’ve ever really paid attention to the moths, and I’m floored by the variety and complexity of these creatures! I really, really didn’t appreciate them until I began sketching them in watercolor.
For example, at first glance the moth above appeared simple and monochromatic. But once I began painting it, it took no less than a half-dozen layers of watercolor to capture the variety of shadings and colorings in its wings and body, and my painting still doesn’t do its natural appearance justice!
Moths are touchy little things. They sit for ages as I sketch them, but if I get too close with a ruler to measure them, they flit away in a flurry.
I would say that this makes identification harder, but I’m not sure how much these measurements would help. My state boasts more than 2500 species of moths, and many of the species look so much alike that my novice eyes can’t tell them apart.
After days spent perusing the internet and field guides in vain, I gave up on identifying each one. Heck, I couldn’t get a firm identification on even ONE, so instead I’ve decided to simply enjoy their presence and sketch them the best I can.
So far I’ve sketched the six moths you see in the photos, but I’ve got plenty more pages in my sketchbook. Also, I’m not giving up on eventually getting some decent field notes. I've become quite a fan of these little winged creatures and have gathered some great information on mothing (yes, there is such a thing!) along with websites that offer help with moth identification here in the States.
Moth Identification Guides
Butterflies and Moths of North American (or if you are into acronyms, BAMONA) will allow you to submit photos for identification. I have not tried this yet, but I may. They also host a large image gallery which may be useful for identification, but if not, it’s fun to ooo and aww over the various species.
Discover Life has a moth identification tool that needs some work. I tried it with almost every moth I sketched, and most of the tool’s guesses didn’t even get close. However, I recommend it because by going through the tool’s steps, I learned a lot about moth’s different shapes along with identifying forewing and costal patterns. Plus, you may have better luck with it than I did.
The Bug Guide has a good page of basic info and identification helps. I found the silhouette key extremely helpful. Even though I still couldn’t firmly identify any of the moths I sketched, it helped me establish each moth’s family. Bug Guide also has a few moths organized by color.
Avian Photography is Eric Reuter's fantastic wildlife photography website where he showcases a huge gallery of moths that he has photographed and identified. You may spot what you are looking for in these pages. If you are into mothing or just want to learn more, Eric also recommends checking out these Facebook groups:
- Mothing & Moth-Watching
- Moths of the Eastern United States
The North American Moth Photographers Group is organized by the Mississippi Entomological Museum at MSU. Their moth walk page is educational and may help with identification, and you can submit your own photos. If you get really into mothing, this group promotes meetings and events like July's National Moth Week.
Also, an online search for moth identification including your state or geographical area may turn up something useful. I discovered an area wildlife photographer who has posted hundreds of photographs along with species identifications of moths she has come across through the years. I still didn’t find any of my moths in the photos, but I bookmarked the website for future reference.
If you know of any other moth identification tips or websites that I didn't mention, feel free to contact me and let me know about them. Any help is appreciated! Happy sketching, and see you in the field!